An energy assessment in your community can provide a lot of useful insights including helping to understand existing consumption patterns, identifying which technologies are in use and exploring potential for energy efficiency and renewables. It can also help to identify existing levels of energy literacy and pinpoint where community action may be helpful for people facing difficulties meeting their energy needs.
Energy bills, meter readings and appliance data can all provide valuable information, as will speaking with members of the community about their energy behaviour.
Community engagement is also an essential part of delivering a successful community energy project. This section outlines some established approaches for assessing energy in your community and engaging people with your project.
Community Energy Surveys
Surveys can be used to gather information on a wide range of topics in the context of community energy projects. This could include:
- Understanding existing energy behaviour and opportunities for increasing ‘energy literacy’
- Capturing baseline information on existing energy usage patterns to support reduction programmes
- Identifying where health and social issues such as insufficient heating may exist in relation to energy
- Exploring opportunities for improving existing heating, hot water, and lighting systems
- Investigating where insulation and draft proofing can be improved in local homes
- Identifying where renewable technologies for heat and power are in use or a possibility
Gathering different types of information like this can not only help to inform decision making within your project. It can also be used to engage with external agencies such as utility companies, local authorities and health services in order to bring about change and target interventions effectively in your community.
Community Energy Plus has substantial experience of developing and supporting community energy surveys and may be able to help with your project. Check the ‘How we can help’ page for further information.
An energy audit is a systematic assessment of energy inputs and outputs for a system, building or process which is conducted in order to identify ways of reducing energy use without reducing the provision of existing energy services such as heating or lighting. In a community context this kind of activity might be conducted as part of an energy survey or other approaches such as a building survey described further below. An analysis of energy usage and expenditure based on utility bills and other fuel costs will form a key part of an energy audit.
Carbon Footprinting is a process for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions. Energy consumption forms a core part of this calculation and footprints can be prepared for individuals, households or a whole community. Community Energy Plus can help your community with Carbon Footprinting.
The Carbon Trust Carbon provides footprinting tools here. A range of other calculators are available on the internet and some examples are shown below:
Conversion factors are required to calculate carbon footprints and these are also available from the Carbon Trust here.
Building Surveys and EPCs
Building surveys can be used to assess the existing energy performance of a community building. Energy bills will provide a good source of information and the Carbon Trust has produced a helpful checklist called “Assessing the energy use in your building fact sheet (CTL003). Techniques such as air-pressure testing may also be useful.
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is a special kind of building survey for assessing energy use and CO2 emissions and provides recommendations to improve the energy efficiency. Community Energy Plus can produce EPCs for community buildings. Refer to our services page to find out more.
Effectively engaging the wider community is an essential part of any successful community project. Whether you are looking to gather information, encourage participation, or motivate people to take personal action on energy, you will first need to engage them successfully and capture their interest. Once they are engaged a world of opportunity can open up!
Engagement activities can take lots of forms. You could organise your own meeting and issue leaflets around the community. Another strategy is to piggy-back on existing organisations and events. Set up a stand at the local market and get yourself invited to speak at meetings of local groups: business networking, the Women’s Institute, local political groups, scouts and guides, schools, lunch and social clubs – whatever groups you can find in your local community. They will often be looking for speakers to so you might be doing them a favour.
In this way you can tap into existing audiences, reaching more people for less effort and getting the ‘stamp of approval’ from these existing organisations which will help to legitimise your cause. Meanwhile you can devote more time to tailoring your message to each audience to get them thinking and on your side.
Community Energy Plus has substantial experience and expertise with planning and delivering community engagement programmes. Why not give us a call and see if we can help.
Other Links and Resources
There are an increasing number of other resources available to help communities increase their understanding of local energy use. This includes useful resources from DECC such as regional and local authority level energy statistics. There are also many communities across the UK actively engaging with energy and many now produce and maintain resources that can be accessed on the Internet and some examples are included below.